On Motoring Monday for November 23rd, it might be wintery where you are, but its convertible weather in California.
So today we’re showing you some of the hot convertibles that made their debut at the LA Auto Show from Fiat, MINI, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen.
2016 Volkswagen Beetle Denim
While Volkswagen is taking arrows over the implosion of their TDI diesel menu, at the LA Auto Show they’ve cooked up some happy pie with the special edition 2016 Beetle Denim.
Celebrating a more positive and playful day for the People’s Car, the 2016 Beetle Denim pays homage to the now very collectible 1970’s Jeans Bug. With all the cool touches inside and out, its a sinking toes into the mud revival of better times.
With only 2,000 of the limited edition to be built, the 2016 Beetle Denim will come in an equal split of both Pure White and the Stonewashed Blue you see here. All will have a Dark Blue convertible top made of textured fabric that looks like denim.
The interior gets lots of unique touches starting with a light-blue-and-silver dash. Seat trims have denim-color cloth with white piping and dark blue leatherette accents. On their backs are some very custom looking jeans-inspired seat pockets.
The blue jeans theme flows just about everywhere you look inside, with seating upholstery you better take care of over time. This is because if you ever wear it out, it’s likely to be impossible to replace.
The 2016 Beetle Denim will be available only with the gasoline fed 1.8-liter turbocharged and direct-injected TSI four-cylinder paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. That engine has 170 horsepower.
Volkswagen says the 2016 Beetle Denim will be a value model in the convertible lineup which means it will be less expensive than top trim grades. It will however have the new MIB II Composition Color infotainment system.
This is vastly improved over even last’s years dash toy with higher resolution, faster processing speeds, and crisper graphics and yes….finally a USB port.
Pricing and the exact arrival time of the new 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Denim hasn’t yet been announced, but whatever and whenever it is, I am sure dealers will be giving thanks.
2017 Mercedes-Benz SL
At the LA Auto Show, the lights were shining bright on the leather lined tanning booth which is the freshly primped 2017 Mercedes-Benz SL.
A fresh face comes to the SL inspired Mercedes-Benz says by the legendary 300 SL Panamericana race car. A new grille and LED headlamp ensemble across the lineup creates a new and unique face for the SL to further distinguish it from other models.
Standard AMG body styling features the Mercedes-Benz A-wing design theme. A body color front splitter and details like powerdome bulges on the hood are retro touches from that of the iconic SL design handbook.
Opening up its rich cabin to the air is the vario-roof, which can now be opened and closed at speeds up to 25mph. There’s also a new automatic trunk separator which moves the up for increased trunk space, and automatically down when the top is opened.
The hardware that moves the SL gets more robust and technologically advanced with a 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission, DYNAMIC SELECT with five transmission modes and Active Body Control with a curve tilting function.
Engines start with a twin-turbo 3.0 liter V6 now with 362 horsepower in the SL450. Though a Euro Spec SL500 is shown here in our video footage from Mercedes-Benz, in North America we will have an SL550 with a 449 horsepower turbocharged 4.7 liter V8.
Topping the range will be of course the Mercedes-AMG lineup with includes both the SL63 and SL65. These start with the 5.5 liter AMG turbocharged V8 with 577 horsepower. The top level SL65 gets the fire-breathing 621 horsepower V12.
The new 2017 Mercedes-Benz SL series has a list of technologies and luxury touches that I could talk about for an hour. But you’d enjoy that conversation a bit more sitting in one at your local dealer, which can happen starting in the spring of 2016.
2016 MINI Convertible
On the more affordable side of the boutique drop-top segment, the LA Auto Show saw the debut of the all-new MINI Convertible which brings open air goodness to the latest generation.
As the first MINI convertible built on the new shared BMW chassis architecture, they tell us this new one is now a premium product. But if you have owned a MINI before as I have, you know they have always been priced like a premium product and are similar to BMW’s maintain.
The new one here will be just as customizable as past model though, offering eleven exterior colors including the new Caribbean Aqua you see here. Styling of course is identical to the latest generation of MINI models and has a power cloth soft top.
The top has some unique multi-way settings, including a sunroof option which enables it to open midway. And that top can be had in a variety of colors and shades, including a new MINI Yours version featuring an embroidered Union Jack with herringbone patterned detailing. Wow.
As expected, a number of interior options are available including a new Malt Brown leather with diamond-stitching MINI says is reminiscent of classic English Chesterfield sofas. Because that’s what you want in your sporty convertible, a Chesterfield sofa.
Powering the MINI Convertible will be the same lineup of three and four-cylinder turbocharged engines, all standard with a six-speed manual transmission. You of course can also option the 6-speed Steptronic automatic transmission.
MINI says its rigid frame and invisible roll bar offer increased safety and it will have improved acoustics over the previous model and will be even more fun-loving. That’s really what the press materials say.
The new MINI Convertible will be available in both Cooper and Cooper S variants, and goes on sale spring of 2016 and prices will be announced in January.
Quick Drive: 2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet
With our desert Southwest offering convertible weather all-year round we recently test drove the 2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet, the mid-sized, mid-priced offering in the brand’s convertible lineup.
And the middle ground is a nice relaxing place to be. As of now, it’s the only available four-seat convertible from Mercedes-Benz, at least until the larger S-Class Cabriolet arrives. But that car is excess where this one seems by comparison, simple shoes.
They’re nice shoes at that. Ours had a sumptuous leather and wood lined interior that was hard to fault not matter now hard I tried. Sitting behind the wheel is a comfortable and coddled existence whether the top is up for down.
It is winter, so the heated and ventilated seats along with a strong wind from the climate control make for tolerating it easy. If I had anything to change in here it would be to replace the transmission selector toggle stick with a traditional shift lever. It’s just more visceral.
Luckily what it controls is quite rewarding to the senses. Our tester’s 329 horsepower turbocharged V6 has plenty of punch to make this car quick to respond. Its sound and feel while not as velvety as the inline sixes of yore, is still something you like to ask for often with your right foot.
The seven-speed automatic transmission does an excellent job of shifting smooth and quick without much drama. The auto-start-stop engine system does offer a bit of drama, but you can switch it off if you’d rather not deal.
On the road and around town over rough pavement patches I was impressed with the solid body structure. With both the top up and down, there were no creaks or shakes that made themselves an issue, which means it feels its price.
At $76,225 as tested, it might not sound at first blush like sensible shoes. But compared to the six-figure tag the larger S-Class Cabriolet will have, it is indeed by comparison. The E400 Cabriolet does start out at a more reasonable $61,350.
To be honest, reasonable and sensible aren’t things you think about when shopping for a car like this. It’s about rewarding yourself. And in that way, this is a nice piece of rich, thick Black Forest cake, that I think is worth the calories.
Reality Check: 2017 Fiat 124 Spider
It was announced a couple years back that Fiat and Mazda would collaborate on their next roadster, sharing the next Mazda MX-5 Miata platform. Fiat unveiled their version at the LA Auto Show this week, the new 124 Spider.
The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider brings back to life an iconic nameplate with a suitably retro and decidedly Italian design. In the big reveal at the LA Auto Show, a good deal of reverence to paying homage was made as they sold up its Italian flair against imagery of the original.
And there’s no question it looks Italian. The facial features, open mouth grille and emphasized fender lines make the point. And the angled rear taillights all harken back to the original Fiat 124 Spider of the 1960’s well.
Under the hood is Italy too, in North America we get the same 1.4-liter MultiAir turbocharged four-cylinder engine found in the Fiat 500 Abarth. It’s good for 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque for the rear wheels and can be had with either six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.
The roadster of course is front-engine, rear-wheel-drive with a double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link in the rear. I expect it will handle and drive quite remarkably as did the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata we recently tested.
And that brings us to the rub. While automakers doing joint ventures like this is nothing new, they usually take steps to separate the two products well, especially when we are talking about iconic names like the 124 Spider and MX-5 Miata.
But here, the interior, wasn’t changed at all but for a couple pieces of trim and upholstery patterns. The only notable difference inside is the Fiat badge on the steering wheel. And the problem with this is the fact that the MX-5’s interior just isn’t that good.
Could they not have at changed it up even a little? A different instrument panel, different console, and for God sake Fiat Chrysler’s much better Uconnect infotainment system and controls? It’s the least they could have done so you don’t feel like a rube who got bamboozled into buying what is clearly a Miata from behind the wheel.
The bright side here is that the new Fiata lets you have an iconic Fiat roadster with Japanese electronics, Japanese engineering, and Japanese build quality. The all-new Fiat 124 Spider arrives in North America next summer 2016.
Now it’s time for our Money Shot where we take the hottest photo from this week’s automotive news and we show it to ya!
The LA Auto Show even had some make believe with the Hyundai N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo Concept. The cartoon car has 872 horsepower from its hydrogen fuel cell and looks pretty cool. But since it’s built for a video game, why not make it 1500 or 2000 horsepower?